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Cooper mandates vaccines for state employees

State mask mandate ended on Friday

RALEIGH—As restrictions are easing for COVID-19 locally, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper lifted the mask mandate for the state on Friday, but is requiring about 50,000 state employees to get a vaccine or face weekly tests and mask-wearing mandates. 

Cooper held a press conference Thursday making the announcement, that also included urging school boards across the state to require masks and for local governments to pay newly vaccinated residents $100 with COVID relief funding. 

State employees who work for cabinet agencies in the state will have until Sept. 1 to verify they are fully vaccinated or face weekly tests and be required to wear masks, according to Cooper. 

Cooper also urged private companies and local governments to require the same. 

“COVID-19 cases are climbing rapidly and hospitalizations are seeing the fastest increase since the pandemic began,” North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service Director Dr. Mandy Cohen said. 

As of last week, there were 57 percent of North Carolinians fully vaccinated. In Polk County, that number is lower, with only 39 percent of residents fully vaccinated. 

According to the NCDHHS, hospitalization have doubled in less than 2 weeks, with 1,141 people hospitalized last Thursday throughout the state. The number of new cases across the state has more than tripled, going from 1,023 people 2 weeks ago to 3,268 last week. 

Cohen said 92 percent of the positive cases in North Carolina were in people who were unvaccinated. 

The Polk County School Board decided Monday night during a special meeting to make masks optional following Cooper’s urging school boards to require masks. Most of the people at the meeting in Polk County were in favor of the school board not requiring masks for the upcoming school year. 

Cohen said the delta variant is almost every single case now and it is far more contagious than the strain from last year. She said last year, it could be expected that each person infected with COVID would infect 2-3 people, but the delta variant is 6 people.